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The long-simmering violence between Israel and Palestine erupted into open conflict this month after a Palestinian teenager was killed in what was believed to be a revenge attack following Israeli accusations blaming Hamas for the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in June. Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning that “Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing at Israel’s citizens,” thousands of Palestinians have been forced to evacuate their homes in the northern areas of Gaza by a series of Israeli air strikes. The air strikes are in reprisal for rocket attacks that have been launched from Gaza to strike targets in Israel. According to the United Nations, 4,000 people have been staying at shelters to keep safe from the aerial bombardments.
On Sunday, the Israeli military dropped leaflets over the city of Beit Lahiya, warning the residents of upcoming attack in their campaign to stop the rocket launches. The leaflets warned that those who did not cooperate by leaving their homes immediately, would be risking their lives as well as lives of their families.
The leaflets are not considered to be a typical method of warning used by Israel. The deputy director of Palestinian Human Rights Center, Jaber Wishah told Aljazeera that the Israeli army does not always give notice before launching air strikes. The most common warning methods they may use are “roof-knockings,” in which an inactive missile will land on a roof of a home to alert the family, or they may call Palestinian residents forcing them to evacuate their homes. Wishah said that all homes in Gaza are potential targets.
Israeli troops entered Gaza on Sunday. One of the senior military officials indicated that their ground forces had been training for this operation and were prepared to exploit their ability on notice. Palestinian officials have reported that more than 160 people have been killed in the attacks, and almost 1,000 more have been wounded. On Saturday, 18 people were killed in a single attack on a home in Gaza. In addition to the deaths and injuries, 70 homes have been demolished and more than 2,000 more have been damaged.
The Israeli government claims these attacks are targeting Hamas and that militants have been keeping rockets and weapons in homes, hospitals, mosques and schools. Although more than 75 percent of those who have been killed have been civilians, Israel’s military insists that the targeted residential areas are considered “lawful” in the offensive. More than 1,300 air strikes have been carried out by Israel and Hamas has launched over 800 rockets. There have been no deaths of Israeli citizens although several have been injured
Nearly 1,000 Palestinians with American, Australian, British and other foreign passports began leaving Gaza on Sunday through Israel’s Erez border crossing. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the current situation as “unbearable,” citing the hundreds of people who have been martyred,and thousands more who have been wounded and left to live amidst a massive devastation. Abbas has reportedly asked U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for assistance in providing international protection for the Palestinian citizens.
Since the start of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the Egyptian government has been providing aid to the Palestinians. On Sunday, seven trucks from Egypt arrived in Gaza to provide humanitarian assistance. There are currently eight schools being used as shelters to house the thousands of Palestinians who have been forced to evacuate from their homes. Although the U.N. has urged the Israeli government and Palestinian militants to declare a cease-fire, neither side has withdrawn from the conflict. Netanyahu stated that they will continue to persist in order to achieve the goal of their campaign by debilitating Hamas. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, is expected to travel to Israel on Monday to meet with Netanyahu and Abbas to attempt to broker an agreement between the two leaders.
By Sarah Temori